ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – As the state continues to work its way through vaccinating seniors, Orange County opened coronavirus vaccine eligibility to 40 and up on Monday.
Some are finding the eligibility expansion to be a challenge as out-of-county residents book appointments at the Orange County Convention Center, potentially leaving local residents empty-handed.
Danny Banks, director of public safety for Orange County, says their hands are tied.
“Unfortunately we are restricted, we can’t exclude another county’s residents from coming here as much as we would like to,” Banks said.
The announcement of the county’s plan to expand the priority group, opening it up to serve residents 40 and up, proved to be a source of excitement for some, like Dana Loving who travelled from Melbourne to get vaccinated.
“I wish more counties would open it up to 40. I had to drive an hour to get here. I hope they have enough vaccine and they could start opening it up,” Loving said.
Residents between the ages of 40-59 could visit the Florida Department of Health in Orange County website at 9 a.m. on Monday to make an appointment. Time slots quickly filled up within 13 minutes on the first morning of the new age group, according to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.
The expansion has presented ethical questions for officials about whether it’s fair for out-of-county residents to get vaccinated ahead of Orange County residents.
“Our primary focus is always Orange County residents but again this is a state asset, these are vaccines provided to us by the state so we have to offer it to everyone,” Banks said.
During Demings’ COVID-19 address to Orange County on Monday, he spoke of the county’s goal to end the pandemic and assured residents more vaccine will become available.
“I would say to any Orange County resident who has attempted to get an appointment and they have not been successful: Don’t give up, we will be opening up the appointment portal soon, I just don’t know when,” Demings said.
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